Category: The Inner Monk

Worship In Virtual Reality

vrworshipSince I have received the Oculus Go VR headset, I have explored many things with this technology. One of the things that has been greatly enhanced is my time of personal devotion and worship time with God. The VR goggles have taken my experience to a new level. When I have the VR headset on, it dramatically cuts down on distractions and totally immerses me in whatever I am doing. Let me share with you some of my experiences using the Oculus Go in VR worship time.

The first app I downloaded was the VR Church: The Bible app. It’s okay but it has a few quirks to it. The main issue is that the app has a place where you can set up a custom plan to read the Bible. Unfortunately, I have found that after I select a plan and start it that the actual Bible reading text doesn’t appear. I can, however, go directly to the Bible section and read it. There are a couple of meditation Bible readings in the app that are nice to go through but they need to update it with more. It is a nice app but it needs to be improved. I keep hoping for updates to this app.

Reading the Bible (or any digital book) with the Oculus Go is very cool. There are a couple of book reading apps such as Virtual Book Viewer or ImmersionVR where you can import a Bible and you can adjust the size to what is comfortable for your eyes. For me, it is much better than paper or even my iPad. The ImmersionVR reader app is a bit different because you can turn the pages by simply moving your head as well as setting some calm background music while you are reading.

There is an app call AltspaceVR where you can customize your personal avatar and transport to different rooms and events. One of the rooms is the VR Church Prayer Room. You can teleport your avatar to the room and watch the International House of Prayer. I think this is a church that conducts worship 24/7.  Yeah, it’s a little different but what’s even more interesting is that you can also attend a virtual church service.

What’s Virtual Reality Church like?

The first 30 minutes are somewhat formal with worship music, prayer, and a sermon. The rest of the time is very informal with discussion and hanging out. At the beginning, a VR pastor will welcome everyone. Then you can listen to worship music for a few minutes. During this time, you can sing, pray, meditate, or simply take it all in by enjoying the worship music. After the worship music, they share a few announcements. Then a VR pastor will give a short interactive sermon. Sermons are designed to encourage your spiritual journey. At the end of the sermon, attendees are encouraged attendees to meet each other and discuss the sermon. They say this is a great opportunity to ask questions, make new friends, or simply hang out.  That may be true but I would caution anyone about “hanging out” online.  I think this virtual church is a good idea but I’m not sure about meeting people there.

Virtual church can’t replace going to a real church but I think it’s a novel idea.  I would still be cautious about it.

Probably the most amazing features of using the Oculus Go for my personal worship time is that I can watch my favorite preachers or Christian music artists on the web or YouTube in what is comparable to watching them on 30-foot screen. It is pretty amazing.  In my most recent personal VR worship time, I watched music videos by TobyMac and Micah Tyler.  I visited the AltspaceVR prayer room to check out what was going on at the International House of Prayer then I went to the Virtual Book Viewer and read another chapter in the Bible.  Other times, I have watched Bible studies and various videos on Bible issues I have questions about. In addition to the worship time, I can also visit the Holy Land and as well as some beautiful places on Earth.

Yeah, this version of worship and personal devotion time sounds a little gimmicky but it has really been an amazing experience for me. I hope developers will create more content for this technology.

Some things I would like to see in VR worship would be:

  • An app with a selection of video praise and worship songs with the lyrics.
  • I would like to see some contemporary Christian music artists shoot some music videos in 360 degree video.
  • It would be nice to have a selection of 360 degree photos of churches where you can sit and meditate.

I love the VR technology and think there could be some awesome things added for personal worship time.  It’s already a pretty awesome experience.  I have enjoyed it so far and looked forward to more time spent in the VR worship.

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Saved By A Baby

star-movie-review-mangerA baby can change your life. Just ask any new parent.

Life after the arrival of a baby is vastly different than before he or she is born. The baby creates change in the home. Priorities change. Lifestyles change. Diapers change. The focus goes from your own life to the new life. Although I have never been a parent myself, I have noticed this change in others. It isn’t anything I can really describe except there is a joy that I can see in their eyes and in their faces that wasn’t there before the baby’s arrival.

There is another baby who was born in a Bethlehem stable over 2,000 years ago, that can have an even greater impact in our lives. Throughout the course of human history since His birth, He has changed the lives of people of all ages, all races and all nations. This baby brought salvation to mankind. There was never a doubt about His “Purpose Driven Life”. Matthew 1:21 tells us “and she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for He shall save His people from their sins.”

His birth and His purpose was to save us from our sins. To repair the separation between God and man. The law which instituted the method of animal sacrifice for the redemption of sin was replaced by a baby who would begin His journey to the cross from His humble beginnings in a stable. All this to save us.

How is it possible that we can be saved by a Jewish baby born in a smelly stable for animals in Israel a long time ago before any of us were born ourselves? How can this baby save us?

This baby was God in a human body. He wasn’t a super hero like Superman. He didn’t come from another planet with powers and abilities but He came to empower us with the indwelling of His Spirit. This baby was born from thousands of years of prophecy. He fulfilled everything that had been said by the prophets about Him.

His own people didn’t understand the significance of His birth. They were looking for an earthly king to save them from the tyranny of Rome but this baby didn’t come to save from an earthly kingdom but to establish a heavenly kingdom. The little baby in the manger didn’t save us. It was the innocent Christ who freely gave His life on the cross which brought salvation to us all. Each Christmas we have cute little Christmas plays to tell us of the miraculous birth but His birth was shadowed by the cross which was His destiny. What we celebrate on Christmas is the wonderful gift that God gave to us. Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift. (1 Corinthians 9:15)

Are you saved? *cringe* *cringe*

When I hear this question, due to my Pentecostal background, I get the image of some zealous religious fanatic on a busy street corner asking people who walk by if they are saved. People who are unfamiliar with this Christian cliché would respond to this zealous street corner preacher: “Am I saved? Saved from what?”

In the Charles Dickens classic, A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by ghosts from the past, present and future. In our existence as God’s created beings, we are also confronted by each ghost but encouraged by the gift of salvation to deal with each one.

SAVED FROM THE PAST
We all have a past. Who hasn’t done things in the past that they regret? We have all said things that we shouldn’t have said and done things that we wished we hadn’t done. Sometimes the ghosts from our past still haunt us today. We can be assured that we all came from the same place; we all have sinned. (Romans 3:23) No one has been born without sin. Sin is the default condition when we are born into this world. A child does not have to be taught to do wrong. Due to the sinful condition of the world, we are born in sin. There are many times I think about the stupid things I have done in my life. I wish I had a time machine where I could go back and change some of the things that I have done. In reality, the problem with the past is that none of us can go back to change anything. The past is done. We can’t have a “do over” but we can have an “extreme makeover” through the power of salvation.

Jesus offers an escape from our past. Although we can’t see the literal blood of Jesus today, we can be assured that His blood sacrifice is still as powerful today to wash away the affects of our past sins. The past does not have power over us! All things have passed away, behold all things are new. (2 Corinthians 5:17) Religious folks have a term called being “born again”. This term confuses the average person just as it did Nicodemus in the New Testament. Obviously, it is not physically possible to return to your mother’s womb and be born again. The rebirth is spiritual. Instead of becoming a baby on the outside, your inner being becomes new. You are no longer defined by your past. Yes, people may still hold your past over you but God will not throw it up to you. Never. We are SAVED from our past.

SAVED FROM THE PRESENT
We all have problems in this life. If you are not currently experiencing problems at this time, just be patient, here is one on the way soon. That’s just life. We deal with stress, relationship problems, financial problems, physical pain, etc. I get rather aggravated when I hear a preacher on television make it seem that if you are a believer in Christ that you will live the good life and won’t have any problems. This is not the reality we live in. It might be good television and convincing for a few more people to “sow their seeds” into those ministries but even Jesus told us that we would have problems. (John 15:18) But, it isn’t all gloom, despair and agony on us. No matter how bad things get, we can still have peace. Jesus said that we will have trouble but to be happy because He has overcome the world. (John 16:33) As believers, we may not have the material wealth as some preach but we will have God’s favor in our life. His favor comes in many ways, some that we do not even give Him credit for. Jesus is more than one that can calm the storms in our lives, He is also the one who can calm us in the middle of the storms. He SAVES us in the present.

SAVED FROM THE FUTURE
When you are saved by this baby, you never have to worry about the future. The future is secured by His eternal promise. Heaven is reserved for you. Until then, His Spirit is dwelling on this earth and guiding your path. Matthew 6:19-20 tells us to store up our treasures in heaven because it will be safe there. Recently I attended a retirement seminar where we were told that the current Social Security program will be bankrupt by the year 2018. We were forewarned not to expect Social Security when we are eligible for retirement. There is no such problem with God’s retirement plan. No one will bankrupt it, no politician will spend it for something of waste and no natural disaster or terrorist attack will destroy it. You can count on it being there because it is backed by the creator of the universe and made possible by the baby who became our Savior.

giftThe future of the world will get worse, evildoers will get more evil as the end approaches. I have grown tired of politicians and all the things they promise. Our Senators, Congressmen and President are NOT the answer. Our future is in God, not a political party. Our future is secure in the salvation of Christ. He SAVES us from the future.

Let us be wise men and women and trust in the salvation that was made possible by a baby in a manger. He has not only saved us from sin, but saves us from everything that tries to snatch us from His care. We are promised eternal life and no one can take that away from us. (John 10:28-29) God gave us a precious gift to assure our place with Him. In our search for gifts during this season, let’s pause to reflect on THE gift we were given by the birth of a baby. A baby who saves us.

Moments of Integrity

C.S. Lewis once said that integrity is doing the right thing even when no one with watching.

Even returning your shopping cart.

It is amazing how something so small can have a ripple effect on others.

I was sitting in the the car at a grocery store while my wife went in to get a few things. I sat there watching what was going on around me to pass the time. A man with two children pushed his shopping cart to his vehicle parked in front of me. After he loaded his children and groceries into his truck he pushed his shopping cart to the side into the vacant parking spot next to him instead of returning it to the shopping cart return just two more feet away. Just two minutes after he left, another person pulled into the parking space where the cart was. The driver couldn’t see the cart and hit it with his vehicle. He stopped, got out and angrily push the cart back to its return. He stomped back to his vehicle and continued parking. He got out, glared at me and walked to the store.

Who knows how the one lone act of not returning the shopping cart may have had a domino effect on the moods of people affected by it. The man who hit the cart was now in a bad mood – or may have already been in a bad mood.

I thought about that for a moment. Something like that can affect so many others. What if that man went home and had road rage on the way home or fought with his wife when he got home. All because of that shopping cart.

We all like to get credit for our good deeds but sometimes the things that we don’t think people see have a deeper affect on others. It is never wrong to do the right thing, even if no one sees it. You will never know the impact you can have on someone’s life and not even know it. What if us doing the right thing ended up saving a life?

One day I was walking to the elevator in my building when the woman already on the elevator made no effort to hold the door for me. In frustration, I walked up to the doors as they were closing and said “That’s not niiiice!” I laugh about it but it was a moment that just a few seconds and a little effort would have been all that woman needed.

What kind of ripples are we creating?

I think we would all be surprised if we could see the things you and I have done ever so small acts or deeds which affected so many others without us knowing.

In Matthew 22 when Jesus was asked which commandment was the greatest, He said the first was to love God with all your heart, mind and soul He then said the second was to love your neighbor as yourself. When we read that we often think our “neighbor” means people in our own little circle of family or friends but it could also mean people we may never meet. In this world when people are so fixated on the screens on their smartphones, our influence reaches much further than the hundreds of friends on Facebook.

I’m always making the statement: “Why can’t people just do what they are supposed to do?” I mostly make this statement when I am behind the wheel and driving but I say this at other times too when the selfishness of others ripples into my own life. Can’t people just do the right thing?

Let us all try to do our part in having integrity. Yes, even something as small and seemingly insignificant as returning the shopping cart to the corral.

What Will You Do With Today?

Today is all that we have
The present is now
The past is past
The future is not promised
Do what you should do today
Say what you should say today
You have the power to change someone’s day
Make it brighter for someone
Love the people you love
Remove the drama
It’s a waste of your day
Encourage someone
Lift them up
It’s not the job of angels
It’s your purpose, your destiny
Don’t expect religion to be the answer
You are the answer
There is nothing you can take with you
Only the effect you have on others you can leave behind
Don’t read the Bible
BE the Bible
Don’t GO to a church
BE the church
Don’t condemn people to hell
Tell them the good news
Stop with the politics
Love knows no party
Love isn’t blinded by color
Love covers it all
Don’t let the day end
Make someone’s day
What if it were their last?

 

Help Wanted: Be An Encourager

People need to be encouraged. This is something that everyone of us have the ability to do. You don’t need any special training to encourage someone. The challenge is in actually doing it.

We live in a world that is selfish and quick to anger. Examples of this appears in our news every day. Shootings, assaults and random acts of violence dominate the headlines. This world is in desperate need of some superheroes. The world need encouragers.

So how can we do this?

  • Look for ways to help someone in need. If it’s a hot day and you see a worker outside, give them a bottled water. If someone needs help, help them.
  • Smile. It’s amazing how just a smile can do so much good.
  • Treat people with respect. Be patient with the cashier or the person working behind the counter at a fast food restaurant. If they do something good, compliment them for it. We are too quick to complain but forget to compliment.
  • Treat someone. Buy an extra coffee for someone or something someone would appreciate. If you know someone likes a certain treat, surprise them with it.
  • Say “Thank You”. Don’t act like you are entitled. Be thankful.
  • Be a good listener. Some people just want someone who will listen to them and their stories. They also want someone they can trust who won’t spread gossip.
  • Tell people that you appreciate them. Don’t assume people know. Tell them.
  • Pay it forward. This has been a trend and a good way to encourage others.

Sometimes just a word of encouragement can change someone’s entire day. Encouragement is the most direct way you can impact someone’s life.  There are too many people that are quick to criticize.  There are people we all come in contact with that could use an uplifting word or deed.  We should look for opportunities to do good and build up, not tear someone down.

Being an encourager is not something super spiritual and you don’t have to wait on a sign from God to do it. It is never wrong to encourage someone to do good. When you encourage someone it will say much more than quoting a list of Bible verses.

The purpose of encouraging others isn’t to bring attention to ourselves. Sometimes doing something anonymously is the appropriate thing to do and sometimes the most fulfilling.

Do you know someone who needs some compassion today? Is there someone who would benefit from your words of encouragement? None of us know how long we have to make a difference in another person’s life. Make the most of the opportunities God gives you. When you are offering encouragement to others you are being God to them.

“Be an Encourager: When you encourage others, you boost their self-esteem, enhance their self-confidence, make them work harder, lift their spirits and make them successful in their endeavors. Encouragement goes straight to the heart and is always available. Be an encourager. Always.”   Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart

IMHO…Death Is Not The End!

paradiseAsk anyone their opinion about life after death and you’re going to get a variety of answers to this question that has puzzled mankind since the beginning of time.

What happens when you die?  Is that the end?

Here are some theories about life after death:

  • According to some, life starts over immediately after death.  This belief is an explanation of feelings of deja vu we experience throughout our lifetime.
  • We move into a paranormal realm where we become ghosts or other spirits
  • Hindus believe in reincarnation and that we will be reincarnated 52 million times as a plant, animal, etc. before returning to human form.
  • One of six destinies awaits Buddhists when they die.  They may be reincarnated as gods, demi-gods, humans, animals, ghosts or sent to the realms of hells.  If you were a good person, chances are you will be reborn in one of the first three categories.
  • Some believe that when you are dead, you’re dead.  Period.
  • According to the movie Beetlejuice, when we die, we continue to live in the form of ghosts stuck in a parallel dimension from which only an iconoclast exorcist can free us.
  • Plato had a theory that after death our souls were judged.  Good souls were placed on islands of the blessed and bad souls were punished.
  • For the pharaohs of ancient Egypt, death was temporary.  This is why it was so important to them to properly preserve bodies by mummification so they could be in their best possible state for their second life.
  • If you believe the Stranger Things theory, the deceased aren’t truly dead.  Some of them simply go to “The Upside Down” which is a parallel universe from which you can communicate through light bulbs.
  • For about $300,000 your body can be preserved at an extremely low temperature to stop your cells from evolving until medicine finds a cure for your death and brings you back to life.
  • Quantum physicists believe that life creates the universe and not the opposite so when bodies die our consciousness continues to exist.
  • The egocentric theory is you are the only person who exists and the entire universe is your own imagination so when you die, the universe will no longer exist.

There are some wild theories out there.

I have read and heard opinions out there so allow me to add my own here.  I mean this is MY blog and I am free to express my own opinions about this.  If you don’t agree, that’s okay.  Don’t be mean about it.  You are entitled to your opinion too.

I have had years of Bible teaching throughout my life.  No, I do not hold a degree in theology but I am capable of making up my own mind and attempt to sort this out myself.  So, with that disclaimer, let’s take a look at my own view of death.

I have concluded that my own personal belief about death is based upon one of the most popular Bible verses.  John 3:16.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

If a person believes in Jesus Christ this verse guarantees us eternal life.  It isn’t a requirement that you have to be Baptist, Catholic, Seventh Day Adventist or any other named religion.  As shocking as it may be to some, there isn’t a “Baptist Heaven” or a “Catholic Heaven” or “Church of God Heaven”.  This is a place is simply a place that Jesus has prepared for believers.

It is my belief that when we die, our soul separates from our physical bodies.  A believer goes immediately to be with Jesus in paradise.  That’s what Jesus told one of the thieves on the cross next to him when he said “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”   Paradise is a temporary heaven because, according to the Book of Revelation (which I am not even going to try to explain) tells us that there will be a new Heaven and a new Earth.  There’s a lot of other things that is supposed to happen but I’m just narrowing this to what happens when we die.

When our soul separates from our physical bodies, we go to paradise.  Before we can fully enjoy paradise, we must spend time in an “in-between place” which Catholics refer to as purgatory.  It doesn’t matter how good of a person we are or how righteous we are, none of us are perfect and we all have issues that must be resolved before we can move on.  This in-between place allows us to resolve these issues.  For the religious folks out there, I’m not saying that sin is okay but we all have things that are imperfect about us.  In order to enter into a perfect place, these things have to be cleansed.  I think of it as TSA to get into paradise.  So if we have any unresolved issues we will be forced to deal with them at that time.  All who die in God’s grace are assured of their eternal salvation but still must undergo a purification.   I’m not really sure what goes on in the in-between place but I envision it as a video replay of things we need to resolve.  It could be a time of deep soul searching and confession.  How long we spend in the in-between place depends upon how long it takes us to resolve these issues.

Once we have passed through the in-between place, we then enter into the main population of paradise where we will be reunited with our loved ones who have gone before us.  I think this paradise is a place that is beyond any beauty that we have seen on Earth or could even imagine with our minds.  We will also have no concept of time.  There really won’t be any need for it.  Most people think of heaven as a place where people are floating on clouds playing harps.   Now that would be pretty boring don’t you think?  Some have said that we will have jobs or hobbies that we will enjoy doing.  I believe we will do things that we enjoy as well as being in the presence of the Lord.  I don’t think any of us can truly comprehend it.

So will we have bodies or floating around as spirit beings?

I have pondered on this a lot and I have mixed thinking about it.  Since the Bible talks about us being reunited with our physical bodies and resurrected when the Lord returns to the Earth, I’m thinking that when we die that it will be our souls in paradise and not some physical recreation of our bodies.  Our souls will recognize our loved ones but not necessarily the physical attributes that we remember such as the last time we saw them.  I also have no idea what a “soul” could possibly look like.  I don’t think it will be a like a ghostly existence but possibly some form.  Like I told you earlier, some of this stuff is a little hard to explain.  I’m not saying I’m right but no one really knows for sure.  Even the Bible can be a bit difficult to translate into something we can understand.

The other question I have had was if our loved ones can see what we are doing here on Earth.  Can they watch us?  How can they see what we are doing?

Most people think that when we die we become angels but that is false.  Angels are separate created beings.  None of us get wings or become angels who watch over those back on Earth.  I believe that God allows them to see what He wants them to see.  I don’t think they are looking down on us 24/7 because that would be a little creepy wouldn’t it?  I honestly don’t think they have time for that anyway.  I have a feeling that they do get updates on us.  Maybe it’s something like heavenly mail or newsflash about us.  I also think they are praying for us.  Maybe they have knowledge of what we are praying and what we are going through.  I really can’t give a definitive opinion on this.

So what about hell?  Do people go there?  Is there such a place?

I would have to think that people who are completely void of a conscious will go to a place of torment much like the rich man in the story of Lazarus.   Luke 16 says that in Hades he was in torment.  While this passage is a parable and not an actual experience, I think it gives a clear message on what happens to evil people.

This is all my own personal opinion.  I have no proof for or against what I have posted here.  We all have to make up our own minds.  I’m certainly not going to convince you.  We all have to figure it out for ourselves.  We are all shaped in our opinions based on something.  While mine is based mostly on Christian beliefs, others might base theirs on science or other spiritualist reasoning.

Whether you believe my version of life after death or not I urge you to think about it.  We’re all going to die sometime.  Figure it out for yourself.  Do some soul searching and ask yourself why you believe the way you believe?  For me, my opinion hinges upon the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  He said:  “I am the resurrection and the life, He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and  believes in me will never die.”  (John 11:25-26).   I don’t think that’s too far-fetched compared to these other theories do you?   Sure, I might be wrong on certain details but I do not believe that death is the end.   Easter is one of my favorite times of the year where I experience the story of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  It encourages me and gives me hope of eternal life.

This is my belief and I won’t apologize for it.   In the end, whatever happens will happen and I have absolutely no control over it.  Maybe that’s why we fear death.  We fear the unknown and we try to explain it with all of these beliefs.

For me, I choose faith.

 

 

What Are You Doing With Your Vapor?

You never think about how short life is until you experience death. We like to avoid the subject because it is uncomfortable for us to face. It is a depressing subject for sure but it is the painful reality of life. We all have 100% chance of dying. It is certain to happen, we just don’t know when it will happen.

The Bible says that “Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. James 4:14

A vapor. That’s our life.

The current life expectancy is 78.7 years in the United States. That number is far away when you are in your 20s or 30s but when you reach 50, that magic number comes into focus.

So what can we do about it? Not much really but when our time comes it comes. There are two things that we can do. We can make our “vapor” an influence while it exists and we can also plan for what comes next.

Let’s look at the present. What are we doing with our vapor now? Are we using the gifts and talents we have been given? We all have something that we can do to make the world around us better. We all have a calling. It may be our jobs, our hobbies or just being a good person that can impact the lives of others around us. We shouldn’t waste it. If you don’t feel like you have done much or look back and lament over the wasted time behind you, start today and focus on what you should be doing with your vapor.

The best way we can influence people is be kind and help others. The world has a serious shortage in kind people. Don’t believe me? Get out in traffic. That will settle it pretty quickly. People are so impatient and selfish. It can be quite demoralizing. Being kind to others doesn’t require a college degree or even religion. Just treat people right and have some integrity. This is something that will impact people more than any charity we could do. Kindness is contagious. This is how we can make our vapor effective while it lasts.

We must also decide what is going to happen next. Life after death. Some people deny anything happens after death. They think when you die then that’s it. The end.

While there is no absolute proof that there is life after death, we can’t ignore the feeling that there has to be more than this. Death can’t be the end. How we live our life depends a lot on what we believe about death.

So what happens when we die? No one really knows for sure but the Bible tells us that when we leave our body, our soul goes to be with the Lord until the resurrection of believers when the spirit will be reunited with the body. Yeah I know this is a leap for most people to believe and I’m not sure I can properly explain the Biblical view of what happens when we die but a life after death transition isn’t something we can comprehend.

There are many beliefs on what happens s after death but it is hard to deny that something does indeed happen to our soul. It is up to you to decide for yourself. I choose to believe in what the Bible says. It is my personal conviction that Jesus Christ was God’s only son who was sent to earth to become a sacrifice for my sins and my belief in him is a promise that I will have eternal life. I’m not forcing you to believe it but you will need to decide it at some point.

78.7

That’s what we have.

Maybe more. Maybe less.

What are we going to do with it?